Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.

Millions of Americans in Puerto Rico have been devastated this month by Hurricane Maria, which has done extensive damage to much of the island. Please join Robba and me in continuing to keep the island’s residents in our prayers. I voted this week for tax relief for those who are impacted by this disaster, including individuals and small businesses, and I will be looking for future opportunities to provide any necessary aid and assistance to these Americans. 

Landmark Tax Reform Framework Introduced
It has been more than 30 years since President Reagan signed the 1986 Tax Reform Act – the economy was entirely different and the way we do business across the world has changed drastically. Americans can no longer afford the status quo of an outdated and complicated tax system. Today’s tax reform framework is a first step toward growing our economy, boosting small businesses, creating new jobs and keeping good jobs here at home. Creating a fairer and simpler tax code means better days for working families and higher paying jobs in Kansas and across the country. I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues and the Administration on this tax reform framework.

Introducing the Startup Act
Along with Senators Mark Warner, Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar, this week I reintroduced the Startup Act – bipartisan jobs legislation to encourage job creation and growth of new business.

New business formation and the rate of entrepreneurship have reached historic lows. Simply put, America is falling behind and losing talent and jobs to countries overseas.

Research by Kansas City’s Marion Kauffman Foundation shows the rate of new startups in the U.S. decreased in 2016, following a near three decade trend. The Startup Act would accelerate the commercialization of university research that can lead to new ventures, review and improve the regulatory processes at the federal, state and local levels, and modernize a critical Economic Development Administration (EDA) program to promote innovation and spur economic growth.

Kauffman research shows that immigrants to the United States are nearly twice as likely as native-born Americans to start businesses, and first-generation immigrants now make up nearly 30 percent of all new U.S. entrepreneurs. The legislation also creates both Entrepreneur and STEM visas for highly-educated individuals so they can remain in the United States legally to promote new ideas, fuel economic growth and create good-paying American jobs.

Congress must work to reverse these trends and support policies that allow better opportunities for someone to take an idea, bring it to market, and in the process of pursuing that success, create jobs for other Americans. I am proud to introduce the latest version of the Startup Act and help make certain America remains the land of opportunity for innovators and job creators.

Please click here to read more about the bill.

Short-Term FAA Reauthorizations Are Missed Opportunities
Unfortunately, this week a six-month extension of Federal Aviation Administration authority was passed once again.

In our ongoing efforts to pass a long-term reauthorization bill, Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress have found common ground, and consensus among the entire aviation community, on a wide range of important issues. But because we as a Congress refuse to set aside the perpetually controversial proposal to privatize our nation’s air traffic control, we are once again left with a short term, “take it or leave it” extension. These short term extensions are damaging to the aviation community, particularly to airports that need certainty in planning infrastructure projects that will improve safety for air travelers.

Last year, the Senate passed a four-year FAA bill with 95 votes. It was the kind of meaningful, bipartisan accomplishment that is all too rare these days. I was proud to support that bill. Instead of agreeing on legislation like that, this week we were forced to vote on a short-term extension.

As Kansans, we know that our small airports, which serve as economic engines for our communities and connect thousands of rural air travelers to the rest of the world, would be put at risk if Congress handed over the entire system to a 13-member private board dominated by commercial airlines. This would harm all but the largest airports and cities in the country. I remain committed to preserving the special aviation culture we enjoy in our state. Please watch my full remarks on the Senate floor here.

Questioning the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee this week, I questioned U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin about the department’s ongoing efforts to hire more mental health and family counseling professionals to serve veterans – especially in rural communities. I also followed up on a letter I sent to Sec. Shulkin with my colleague Senator Jon Tester that asks the VA to create an occupational series for Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists to expedite the hiring process, so more veterans can receive more quality care faster. For years I have worked to push the VA to hire more mental health professionals so that our nation’s heroes can have more access to the care they need. While I am encouraged that Secretary Shulkin is committed to hiring more mental health professionals, I want to make certain he prioritizes hiring in rural and underserved communities to provide critical services veterans need. Increasing access to mental health is critical to helping reduce the number of veteran suicides, and I will continue to work to make certain that the VA has all the authorities it requires to hire and recruit mental health professionals who can assist veterans in need. Please click here to watch our dialogue. 

Hearing on the Federal Trade Commission
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, I convened a hearing on Tuesday on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and proposals to improve fairness, innovation and consumer welfare.

For over a century, the FTC has been protecting competition and consumers by enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws and combatting deception and unfairness in a wide variety of industries.  Through its efforts, the FTC has often helped to prevent anticompetitive practices that stifle innovation, lower quality or raise prices. It has also helped to make certain that consumers can make informed choices based on accurate advertising, and avoid injury from fraud and unfair trade practices such as unauthorized credit card charges.

Although the FTC’s efforts have produced many benefits for consumers and the economy, questions have been raised about the way the FTC exercises their authority. Others have argued that they have conducted investigations and issues orders that impose unnecessary costs, and that the commission does not always provide adequate guidance to businesses seeking to comply with the laws the FTC enforces.

We spoke to past directors of the FTC on the progress made and the best way to continue making the FTC work best for the American people. I look forward to the continuous work my subcommittee and others will have on these issues.  

Joining Kansas Honor Flight Veterans
I had the privilege of attending an Honor Flight on Tuesday to recognize Kansas veterans at the memorials that honor their service in Washington, D.C. Veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War shared their stories about their days in active duty and I thanked them for their service.

Two of the Kansans interning in my office accompanied me to see firsthand the sacrifices their fellow Kansans have made for our country. We were all impressed by two brothers, Ray and John Hense – both WWII Navy veterans – who attended, and reminded us all of the numerous sacrifices often made for our country by entire families.

Often, Sen. Bob Dole attends these honor flights to greet veterans. Unfortunately, he couldn't make it this week, but I thought of him and his commitment to our nation’s heroes throughout the visit. We all missed him and hope to see him at the next honor flight saluting our Kansas veterans.

Discussing the Importance of Career and Technical Education with SkillsUSA
By putting an outsized emphasis on a four-year degree as the only means for success, our country has repeatedly failed to prioritize career and technical education. In order to fill the career and technical job vacancies in Kansas and meet the needs of companies wanting to hire locally, we must make certain we educate Kansans in these fields to take these jobs. In recent visits with Kansans, I’ve found that many are pushing for career and technical education – a viable and important path for a successful career.

Kansans from SkillsUSA – a national organization committed to ensuring America has a skilled workforce – stopped by my office to discuss their efforts to expand career and technical education, as well as coordinate with Kansas businesses to place their students in jobs that can provide them with a satisfying career. In Wichita, SkillsUSA is partnering with Spirit, Textron and other Kansas corporations to train students to fill the substantial workforce needs of these companies.

We must continue encouraging those joining the workforce to pursue career and technical education and – importantly – keep these skilled Kansans in Kansas.

Honored to Spend Time with the 2017 Kansas Principal of the Year
On Tuesday, I was honored to meet the 2017 Kansas principal of the year, Principal Benjamin Jimenez from Decatur Community Junior/Senior High School, and his wife, Jen. We spoke about his efforts to enrich the education of his students and promote programs such as career and technical education that help Kansas students have brighter futures. We also discussed funding for workforce development in our schools. The Senate needs to take action to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins program so that the support for career and technical education is appropriately targeted. I’m thankful to have heard Principal Jimenez’s perspectives so that I can share them with my colleagues as we work on this issue. I appreciate his hard work and all of his efforts to provide Kansans with a high-quality education.

Meeting with KU and KSU Athletic Directors
I enjoyed meeting with Athletic Directors Sheahon Zenger of the University of Kansas and Gene Taylor of Kansas State University on Wednesday. We spoke about the current status of collegiate athletics in Kansas and the future for our student athletes. I wish them both well as the football season continues and other sports begin their seasons.

Hearing from NASA About the Future of the Administration
On Monday, I met with Rep. Jim Bridenstine, to discuss his nomination by the President to serve as Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Rep. Bridenstine has been a member of Congress since 2012, representing Oklahoma’s 1st District, which touches our Kansas border near Coffeyville. He is a former Navy pilot and currently serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Rep. Bridenstine and I discussed our mutual desire to see American astronauts once again launching on American rockets from domestic soil, something that has not transpired since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011. In addition, we discussed the expanding partnerships between NASA and commercial space providers and the tremendous potential these partnerships have to develop capabilities for exploration of deep space.

Ever since President Eisenhower established NASA in 1958, the agency has played an invaluable role in making human space flight a reality and inspiring young Americans to pursue education in math and science. As a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, I look forward to considering Rep. Bridenstine’s nomination and continuing to work with NASA on advancing the agency’s technology and collaboration with the private sector toward new scientific breakthroughs in space.

Touring Children’s Mercy Kansas and Growing Futures Early Education in Overland Park
I spent time hearing health profssionals of Children’s Mercy Kansas in Overland Park on Friday morning, where we discussed the importance of Medicaid for their patients and their views regarding CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) reauthorization. We also discussed the value of the graduate medical education program for children’s hospitals, and the importance of their fellowship program at Children’s Mercy Kansas. During my visit, I had the opportunity to tour their full service ER, which sees between 100 and 130 patients per day. The hospital maintains 53 inpatient beds, and many specialty clinics. I also walked through their Epilepsy Monitoring Unit and the Sleeping Diagnosis Unit. Thanks to Neesha Hitchcock, Sandra Lawrence, Genny Nicholas, and Dallas Polen for a productive conversation and informative tour. And thanks to Dr. Barbara Furgason, a friend and Plainville native and the lead anesthesiologist at Children’s Mercy, for taking the time to visit with me.


Kansans with the National Head Start Association visited my Washington, D.C. office this week to discuss nationwide Head Start objectives and to provide an update on local efforts to educate young Kansans and ensure everyone has an opportunity to receive a quality education.

After visiting Children’s Mercy Friday, I visited the Growing Futures Early Education Center – formerly Head Start of Shawnee Mission – to see these efforts at work. During my tour of the facility, we discussed the implementation of early education programs and various support services the Center offers for its 247 enrolled children and families.

I enjoyed my Head Start discussions in both Washington, D.C. and Kansas, and meeting these bright children at the Center.

Attending Riley County Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting
On Sunday, I joined Riley County farmers at their annual Farm Bureau meeting and shared my views on the importance of agriculture in our state and the role Kansas plays in leading farmers and ranchers across the nation. Those who work hard day in and day out to keep our farms and ranches successful are the backbone of our country. I shared my commitment to protecting trade opportunities for Kansas agricultural products with attendees. Thanks to all who participated.

Kansans in the Office
Garrett Wilkinson of Manhattan
Kennedy Hackerott of Manhattan
Ben Davis of Prairie Village

Amnesty International
Cynthia Smith of Lawrence

Becky Warren of Cherryvale
Cassandra Puletapuai of Leawood
Brenda Simmons-Hood of Leavenworth
Barbara Evans of Topeka
Grace Lindman of Topeka
David Praiswater of Topeka
Kelly Jenkins of Leavenworth
Deb Hargrove of Arkansas City

Garden City Community College
Hector Martinez of Garden City
Rosa Rosales of Garden City

Associated General Contractors of Kansas
Scott Casebolt of Wichita
Jim Rinner of Topeka
Mike Gibson of Wichita

American College of Rheumatology
Therese Humphrey of Derby
Kent Huston of Leawood

Corbin Witt of Junction City
Keith Mispagel of Fort Leavenworth

Redwood Group
Mike Kincaid of Mission
Steve Titus of Mission

Kansas Principal of the Year
Benjamin Jimenez of Oberlin

American Planning Association
Chad Bunger of Manhattan

International Packaged Ice Association
Walter Berry of Topeka

National Association of Foster Parent Program Directors
Susan Harrington of Manhattan

Land O’ Lakes Policies and Resolutions Committee
Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick

National Association of Wheat Growers
Ken Wood of Chapman
Justin Gilpin of Emporia
Daniel Heady of Wamego
David Schemm of Sharon Springs

National Association of College and University Business Officers
Diane Goddard of Lawrence

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Sreenivasa Jonnalagadda of Overland Park

Karen Siebert of Prairie Village

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Jeff Little of Shawnee
Amber Lucas of Olathe
Mary Durham of Leawood
Joe Slechta of North Newton

National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association
Chad Girard of Hutchinson
Steve Sloan of Pittsburg

Novo Nordisk
Lori Gillihan of Ozawkie
Terri Hanna of Shawnee
Mary McCurry of Burrton
Lori Nickell of Leawood
Carlos Trujillo of Goddard
Don Kempin of Olathe

Heartland Credit Union Association
Aubrey Gallagher of Hutchinson
Amy McLard of Topeka

KU and K-State Athletic Directors
Sheahon Zenger of Lawrence
Gene Taylor of Manhattan
Jack Cline of Lawrence
Sue Peterson of Manhattan

National Head Start Association
Maverick Shawn Wylie of Salina
Jordan Dickey of Salina
Cristina Nieto of Salina
Joanie Burke of Frontenac
Sabree Ann Schnichels of Girard
Jessica Marie Blevens of Fredonia
Kimberly Kill of Olathe

American Academy of Family Physicians
Mike Munger of Overland Park

Kansas Farm Bureau
Jessica Flory of Overbrook
Jacquelyne Leffler of Americus
Steven McCloud of Newton
Mindy Andres of Council Grove
Wendee Grady of St. George
Marieta Hauser of Ulysses
Jackie Munott of Preston
Jill Casten of Manhattan

Heartland Homecare Services
Tim Rowland of Lawrence
Beth Simpson of Lawrence
Ed Johnson of Lenexa

American Society of Clinical Oncology
Joshua Mammen of Kansas City

Kansas Rural Water Association
Bill Shroyer of Sabetha
Elmer Ronnebaum of Seneca

Farm Journal Foundation
Tyler Lund of Salina
Lydia Lund of Salina

Capitol Tour
Mike Loflin of Hays
Brenda Loflin of Hays
Kirk Chapin of Hays
Debora Chapin of Hays
Ray Montague of Gardner
Cheryl Montague of Gardner
Richard Roth of Leawood
Allison Roth of Leawood
Max Roth of Leawood
John Miller of Fairway
Jacelyn Miller of Fairway
Steve Douglas of Lenexa
Sandra Douglas of Lenexa
Sonya Houghton of Shawnee
Luke Douglas of Overland Park
Preston Douglas of Overland Park
James Gerhardt of Olathe
Maegan Gerhardt of Olathe
Greg Cary of Bel Aire
Talan Cary of Bel Aire
Brian Lager of Plainville

Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.

Very truly yours,

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